Day 2 - Kobe and Osaka
|Monday, February 22: We slept as late as we could, then walked two blocks from our ryokan to the McDonald's in the Kyoto Tower building.
|We were here for the Filet-O-Ebi, but it was breakfast time, so we picked some items from the fairly familiar breakfast menu.
|Tom had a standard Egg McMuffin, and Debbie had a "Bacon & Egg Cheese McGriddles." It was identical to our Bacon Egg & Cheese McGriddle except that the scrambled square of eggs was replaced with the unscrambled round fried egg featured on the McMuffin. Sodas were miniature as usual in Japan.
|We strolled two blocks down to Higashi Honganji Temple to see sights we had seen on our March 2008 trip, including this dragon fountain.
|On our previous trip, this temple had been covered by a giant construction building while the one next to it was open for business, but this time, it was just the reverse.
|There's a tiny garden Debbie loved and photographed last time, so this time she got a closeup of one of the cool details.
|This is a nice place to visit if you have a very short time in Kyoto, since it is just a few blocks away from Kyoto Station.
|This area was heavily documented on our last trip, so we'll leave you with this shot of tiny birds enjoying a lantern-shaped exterior light.
|Right across the street is a lovely fountain. Last time we were here, the sakura (cherry) trees behind were in bloom, but it's still beautiful.
|From here, Kyoto Tower beckons us to come back and visit.
|There's plenty of shopping on the main floor of Kyoto Tower, but the real reason to visit the shopping area is the restroom on the second floor. Electronic toilet seats are all over Japan, but this is the first one Debbie ever saw in public.
|Somehow, she had previously missed the fact that its many options also include a button to play flushing sounds. While waiting at one restroom in a mall, every one of the four stalls was playing electronic flushing sounds. Very odd.
|Here's one of the awesome Japanese hand dryers. Just insert your hands in the slot and lights and blowing air start up. It's all very space-age and your hands are dry in no time.
|Our ryokan was right across the street from Kyoto Station with one city block between it and the Kyoto Tower building.
|Our room was on the sixth floor toward the back.
|We watched the Vancouver Winter Olympics in our room. Coverage focused on the Japanese athletes as expected, and any American interviews were dubbed in Japanese, so we really couldn't follow much of what was happening, but we enjoyed it anyway.
|Just before it was time to head to Kobe, we checked out the view at the end of the hallway of Kyoto Station across the street.
|It's a giant facility with a hotel attached. In this shot, you can see the base of Kyoto Tower reflected in the windows.
|We went downstairs and exchanged our loaner slippers for our shoes, stored on shelves by floor number.
|Looking back across the street from Kyoto Station, our ryokan is the small mustard yellow building on the left, with the Kyoto Tower and hotel on the right.
|Orchy was there!
|Back in Kyoto Station, we went to the JR West service counter to get our tickets to Kobe. They told us to just take a local train instead of waiting to take the shinkansen. So that's what we did, which introduced us to the joys of nonreserved seats. At 10:30 AM, the trains weren't too crowded, so even though it was a long trip, stopping at every town between Kyoto and Kobe, it was pleasant.
|We arrived at JR Sannomiya Station and proceeded to get lost trying to find our destination. It turns out that the map we were following was based on exiting a different station -- the one just down the street from this one.
|We spent about 15 minutes wandering the streets of Kobe before we returned to the station and figured it out.
|Our destination was this building, home of Kobe Misono, the originator of teppan-yaki griddle steak. For us, that meant our first taste of Kobe beef, and there's only one place to get that: Kobe.
|Our next challenge was figuring out how to get to the restaurant. This photo made us think that the restaurant we wanted was on floors 4 and 5, but the elevator merely spoke to us in Japanese and refused to move when we pushed those buttons. We tried several times then waited outside. We watched another couple go in and saw the number over the elevator go all the way up to the 7th floor. Aha!
|Once there, we were seated along a long row of seats facing shiny cooking surfaces and windows, and we freshened up with hot towels and shared a large bottle of beer. (When the waiter asks, "Two glasses?," you say "Yes" because the waiter clearly knows the bottle is big enough for two.)
|We selected the extra-special set lunch, consisting of several courses. We started with an appetizer, salad, then a seafood course of scallops and mackerel.
|The star of the show is the beef, shown here with raw garlic slices.
|The finished product consisted of perfectly cooked cubes of steak and crispy garlic chips, served with vegetables, miso soup, rice, seasonings, and sauce. It was very delicious.
|Here's our friendly chef, Kitada ...
|... who took this photo of us.
|Dessert was vanilla ice cream, raspberry sorbet, some sort of mousse dessert, and an extremely sweet melon.
|Completely stuffed, we walked back to Sannomiya Station and took the train to Osaka Station (not to be confused with Shin-Osaka). We found a tourist information office and got walking directions to the Umeda Sky Building.
|Let's go in and take the escalator to the third floor, ...
|... then take the third-floor walkway to the elevator (admiring the garden next to the building), ...
|... then take the elevator to nearly the top, then take the cool escalator to the top.
|At the top are two circular floors spanning the two towers that make up the building. In celebration of Valentine's Day and White Day (March 14), these love seats were set up in front of windows for convenient romantic seating for two.
|Several photo opportunities were presented too. A small stand was conveniently located in front of each of these frames so couples like us could use the timers on our cameras to photograph ourselves. Step right up!
|But we're not here for romance -- we're here for the views!
|We went up one level for the outdoor viewing. First, a view of the inside of the two-story circle, ...
|... and the awesome escalators that lead to them.
|And now, let's look at Osaka.
|More views ...
|... and more ...
|... and more. Here we are facing the direction of Shin-Osaka.
Debbie used the Video Panorama app on her iPhone to make a video that was converted into this panoramic photo.
|From the top floor, we saw this unique little area on the floor below, again specially designed for couples in love. Note the red bench, the camera stand in front, and the fence behind it.
|The fence is covered with pink and brass locks, available for sale and personalized engraving inside. We passed on the opportunity.
|When it was time to leave, we headed back down the elevator. Debbie turned around for Tom to take a photo, ...
|... and we got this shot of the up escalator through the clear tube windows.
|We went back across the third-floor walkway, admiring the garden on the other side, ...
|... and over to the garden to check it out. It's called the Island Garden, or Chusizen in Japanese.
Around 4:00, we joined the masses leaving work and walked to the train station, then took the train back to Kyoto. We didn't mean to fall asleep at 5:00 PM, but we did.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy